Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A visit to the river






I do so love winter. The cold, the grey, the biting wind tangling my hair. I know I can say this with ease because I have a warm comfortable home to come back to afterwards, and I am not forgetting those who don't and those for whom winter has brought misery.

But in the midst of all the lights and frantic activity and mass consumerism, I love to get far away from it all and fix my eyes on the horizon and breath deeply. Grey is such a soothing colour I think. An antidote to the clash of Christmas colours. Down by the river on Sunday there was grey aplenty.

I've written before about this immense river of ours. Under the bridge, the Second Severn Crossing, it becomes the Severn Estuary. We stood underneath for a while. The noise of the motorway above is strangely absent when you're directly below the road.

This is the end of 220 miles of river. It starts in the Cambrian Mountains in the middle of Wales, some 2000 feet higher than here. The way the estuary is shaped causes a funnelling of sea water up the river, which has the second highest tidal range in the world. On a high tide, the water rises almost 50 feet. The currents are swirling, lethal, and below the water are sandbanks and mudflats ready to trap the many ships that pass this way. The nearby docks send pilots out to bring ships in, it's a requirement that their experienced pilots are used in these dangerous waters. I wouldn't like to be out there now, and I certainly wouldn't have liked to be out there in the 1700s.

It's a quicker route to Wales though, so for a long time people have been braving the currents. The other bridge is further upstream, nearer to where we live. A big suspension bridge, but too far into the gloom to show up well in a photo. I've probably mentioned it before, but when I'm crossing the river on one of these bridges I tend to sink my nails into my palms ever so slightly. I like to see the river, but preferably from the bank.

Out on the water there were birds bobbing around. Maybe 300 wigeon. It's a great place for birds, they love the mud flats that are exposed at low tide. There were fishermen as well. Given the middle boy's sudden love of all things fishy we went and had a chat, and watched hooks being baited and cast into the murky water. The currents swirl up mud and sediment into the water, making it the colour of hot chocolate.

It can feel more than a little godforsaken down by the river, but I love it, wherever we are along its banks. It scares me more than a little, which is good, this much power needs respect. But I love the power of it too, how it has always been there, how people have tried to cross it, live by it, earn their living from it. This far downstream it isn't always pretty, but it is always magnificent.

29 comments:

  1. Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing your winter space. It definitely gives rise to winter daydreams and adventures.

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  2. All that grey sure is an antidote to the sparkly colors of Christmas! I live by a huge river too.. so I can really relate. I love seeing it in all it's guises.. even now when it's muddy and brown from our record rains and flooding. Enjoy your cleared mind. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  3. I have an aunt (Welsh) who flatly refused to cross the then only Severn Bridge. She insisted her poor husband drove all the way round to avoid it, where is it you have to go... into Herefordshire or somewhere?

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    1. You can cross at Gloucester, still quite a trek though! When it's very windy or there are ice sheets on the new bridge they close them and then it's back to the long way round. Only happen very rarely though. CJ xx

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  4. Great photos. I'm glad to hear you like winter and grey skies, now I'm going to try and do the same. Coming from Australia, I associate such weather with melancholy writers and poets!

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  5. Lovely atmospheric photos. I'm with you on the bridge bit - whenever I drive to Bristol I find myself holding my breath as we cross the bridge; it terrifies me and I have to concentrate really hard on the road and not look at the water! Rising 50 feet at high tide - that's amazing a more than a little scary! If you like grey skies you'd love it round here at the moment! Have a great weekend. xx

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  6. Hey CJ,
    As a child I would get very excited whenever we crossed the old Severn Bridge. It felt as if we were crossing into a foreign land. I guess we were in a way. Now the new bridge is the last landmark that Olly and I tick off on our journeys from here to Bristol. And I always feel an undercurrent of excitement that I will soon be home.
    Leanne xx

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  7. Lovely atmospheric post and what a super antidote to the sparkle and tat that is Christmas these days! I must try and see the grey days as you do and not long for light as I do.

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  8. How do you get two whales in a mini? Across the Severn Bridge. Great photos CJ. I too love the colours of the landscape at this time of year. It is December and the days are short and it's So good to slow down and appreciate the here and now.

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    1. I'm laughing and groaning. The children will LOVE that one! CJ xx

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  9. The river and the bridges are magnificent and the power of the water can be quite frightening – I know what you mean – but it is exciting to stand next to such an unstoppable force. (But well away from the edge!) S x

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  10. Good post and interesting photos. I'm glad that I don't have to drive over that bridge, or others like it, as I always feel a bit wobbly when doing so. Flighty xx

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  11. A mighty river indeed! Your photos are very atmospheric, perfect gloom (but not depressing). I had to close the blind next to my office desk this morning because the sun is shining onto my screen!! xx

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  12. Wonderful photos. I'm with you with the sinking of nails in to the palm of your hands, I'm not fond of crossing any bridge.

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  13. Interesting CJ. People seem to have an attraction to water, even if there is a bit of fear involved. (a bit of fear can be a good thing) We've been having gray mornings here - lots of fog which is unusual, but I like it.

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  14. I really enjoyed this post. Your descriptions are so interesting and thought-provoking. I've lived near important bodies of water all of my life (the Hudson River, Lake Ontario, the Rio Grande). All have been important to the history and culture of the places but maybe less so by the time I was living in them, just due to the changes in commerce and travel. I like standing near water but I do feel nervous if my kids are near it. I don't think they have the same fear in them, since we haven't been near much water (the Rio is wide but shallow), so I worry that they'd just fall right in. I like standing under the bridges too, you're right, it can be very quiet if you stand just so.

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  15. I'm shivering just looking at those pictures! You definitely get a sense of the cold...
    As for grey, it's my favourite colour. This despite the seemingly endless gloom we've had lately; if it isn't raining then it's threatening to. We just painted the bathroom grey. Or at least, started painting it. The initial colour turned out to be a rather unattractive light blue but the new grey is quite dark and industrial-looking. I think we'll just have to stick with it and maybe redo it (yet again) in the spring.
    I agree with your sentiments about winter. Getting out there in the cold gives you a delicious feeling once you come back to a warm house (particularly one that's dressed for Christmas).
    S x

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  16. Your walk sounds like the perfect antedote to Christmas mayhem! I love the fact that you feel in such a different place when you cross the river, I guess it must be all those Welsh signs. You don't realise how many shades of grey there are. Thankyou for the beautiful photos as always. Hope your weekend is cosy. B x

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  17. Very atmospheric photos :) As a child I remember crossing the river to see family in Wales via the ferry which ran from Aust and then the momentous occasion when the first Severn bridge opened. We went to view it from the service area and I am sure, if I remember rightly, we were able to walk across too.

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    1. Yes, you can still walk across if you want. I haven't done it yet though! CJ xx

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  18. A very thoughtful and by the sounds of it calm and calming place to be at this time of year! xx

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  19. I love the sea and rivers and often have a calling to be by them, maybe that's why we are a sailing family. there is something wild at times and calming at others about it. A great place to be for some 'time out'

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  20. What a lovely post, CJ. I agree. There's something very inspiring about rivers, and something slightly frightening too.

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  21. Such a delightful post, wonderful photos x

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  22. Such a delightful post, wonderful photos x

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  23. There is nothing like water to sooth your soul. I love hearing about this river, it is fascinating.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  24. I find I can get more than a little mystical thinking about all the rivers that flow round the country. All those watery veins that have been there for thousands and thousands of years. I have a healthy respect for the sea but I am definitely drawn to rivers so I liked seeing yours and reading your thoughts about it. XX

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  25. That first photo is really good CJ, the way the bridge just rises from the mist. I know what you mean about horizons, and this is why I seek out the beach in the winter, especially when things are hectic and stressful. Sometimes you need to pull back from it all. xx

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  26. Your images are calm and soothing and a welcome break from the Christmas rush. I too remember the excitement of crossing the old Severn bridge. The new one isn't quite the same! Sarah x

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